May 12, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Kori Carter rarely holds back. Certainly not in a race, and rarely with her excitement. Reserved she is not.
But after the Stanford junior repeated as the Pac-12 champion in the 100-meter hurdles on Sunday at USC's Loker Stadium - winning by perhaps an inch by lunging to the finish line - she found little use for a lack of self-control, even in the face of breaking her own school record.
"Keep your focus," Carter said of her thoughts at the time. "You've got a long day ahead. Do not be satisfied. You can celebrate it later."
By being patient, Carter indeed had even more to celebrate. Ninety minutes after her 100 hurdles victory, Carter put together an even more stunning performance - winning the 400 hurdles in the fastest time in the world this year and doing so in meet and stadium-record time.
Carter's 54.21 was the second-fastest in-season performance in collegiate history and another massive school record, following her 12.76 in the 100 hurdles (from 12.99). It also allowed her to become the first Stanford woman to pull off a hurdles sweep at the conference meet.
Carter's victories highlighted the efforts of the Cardinal women, who placed fifth as a team with 86.5 points. Oregon won the women's title with 139 and captured the men's crown with 149.5. The Stanford men were 10th with 43.
Her 400 hurdles victory came in another memorable duel with Arizona's Georganne Moline, the fifth-place finisher in the 2012 Olympic Games. On April 6, Carter edged Moline at the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, with Carter running a school-record 54.71.
"I love to race," Carter said. "When I have someone of her caliber next to me, I rise to the occasion. I feel like I can find another gear."
It was nearly too fast. Carter was so amped that her step pattern was thrown off and she ran the first five hurdles with the wrong lead leg.
She knew Moline typically surges from the seventh through ninth hurdles and in her pre-race plan, Carter knew she would need to cover that move down the homestretch. But what Carter didn't anticipate was her fast early pace. She went out hard enough to take the initial lead and felt so strong that she pushed aside Moline's expected surge and pushed hard to the finish.
Moline was second in 54.54 with both recording the fastest times by Americans this year, and UCLA's Turquoise Thompson, the 2010 and 2011 champion, came in third in 55.18.
Carter became the first Cardinal to win the event since 2005. In the process, she broke Moline's year-old Pac-12 Championships record of 55.12 and the 1999 stadium mark of 56.55 set by UCLA's Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100 hurdles gold medalist.
As well as Carter has run in the 400 hurdles in what has truly been a breakthrough season in that event, she came into the day with a dual aim.
"I like both," she said. "The focus the rest of the season will be on the 400 hurdles, but I did not want to give up the 100 hurdles title. That's my ego talking."
The race that would feel similar to the 2012 conference final when she edged teammate Katie Nelms, in a school-record 12.99 to 13.01. This time, Carter felt UCLA's Brea Buchanan in a side-by-side battle.
It came down to a lean. Carter thrust herself across the line to win by 0.01, breaking her year-old Stanford record and achieving the IAAF World Championships `A' standard (she had already achieved that standard in the 400 hurdles). It was the second-fastest time in NCAA Division I this year, third among collegians, sixth among Americans, and seventh in the world.
"I knew we would dip into the 12's," she said. "I knew it was going to be a battle." But for a long time afterward, Carter had no idea she had won. She had walked off the track and was heading back to the starting area before realizing it.
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Stanford finished with three individual titles, all by the women. In addition to Carter, sophomore Brianna Bain repeated as the javelin champion on Saturday.
But Justine Fedronic nearly gave the Cardinal another victory. The senior and school-record holder finished second to Oregon's Laura Roesler in the women's 800, 2:06.51 to 2:07.23.
The men's 400 was one of the most anticipated events of the meet, featuring defending champion and U.S. Olympian Bryshon Nellum of USC, Oregon's 2011 Pac-10 champion Mike Berry, and Australia's 2012 Olympic finalist Steven Solomon of Stanford.
The race went to Nellum in a stadium record 44.76, with Berry second in 45.14, and Solomon third in a Stanford freshman record 46.12. Solomon, running in his second meet of the season, broke the frosh mark of 46.46 set by Rene Rodriguez in 1993.
Solomon also jumped into tie for No. 3 on Stanford's all-time performance list. In the men's discus, Stanford senior Geoffrey Tabor threw farther than he did in winning the 2011 Pac-10 title. However, his season-best toss of 189-10 only got him third this time partly because of a stadium record 214-7 by UCLA's Julian Wruck. Tabor finished as Stanford's top point producer, with 11 points in two events (including his fourth-place in the shot put -- over two days.
Jules Sharpe, another senior, scored for the third consecutive season after producing a personal-high fourth place in the high jump. Sharpe cleared 7-1 1/2 on his first try, missed once at 7-2 1/2, and then passed to the eventual winning height of 7-3 3/4 before two misses ended his competition.
The Cardinal qualified three into the men's 1,500 final, with Tyler Stutzman earning the top team finish in that event with a fourth-place. Stutzman ran 3:42.36, with Michael Atchoo eighth in 3:43.65, and Marco Bertolotti 10th in 3:45.14.
Jessica Tonn earned her second top-five finish in two days by placing fifth in the 5,000 a day after a runner-up finish in the 10,000. Tonn ran 16:36.60 to lead teammate Aisling Cuffe (sixth, 16:37.12), among scorers.
And junior Ellie McCardwell earned her third top-five Pac-12 finish by placing fifth in the women's pole vault at 13-0 1/4.
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"On the women's side, we had a great meet, only one point from fourth," said Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's first-year Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field. "On the men's side, this is going to be a crucial turning point for us right now.
"We can do better. We have some holes to fill and we need to have more depth in the middle distance and distance events.
"But this is a step in the process. We'll have our first recruiting classes coming in. We're taking a long-term approach and we see this as an opportunity for us to create a foundation and build the program."
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A few hours after the meet's conclusion, Carter finally had time to rest, though it was in the vinyl chairs in front of her gate at LAX, waiting to board the airplane that return the team back to the Bay Area.
"I'm extremely tired," she said.
But the wait allowed Carter time to finally reflect.
"This just shows that all the hard work is paying off and I'm on the right path," she said. "I'm really happy and excited for the future."
Her concentration the rest of this season will be solely on the 400 hurdles - beginning with the NCAA Regionals (May 23-25 in Austin, Texas) and continuing through the NCAA and U.S. Championships, and perhaps beyond.
Said Carter, "This lets me know that I'm ready to rock with these girls at nationals."